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Thy name is woman, p.1
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       Thy Name Is Woman, p.1

           Bryce Walton
 
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Thy Name Is Woman


  Produced by Greg Weeks, Meehan and the Online DistributedProofreading Team at https://www.pgdp.net

  Thy Name Is WOMAN

  By Kenneth O'Hara

  Illustrated by Zimmerman

  [Transcriber Note: This etext was produced from IF Worlds of ScienceFiction March 1953. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence thatthe U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]

  _There wasn't a woman left on earth. They had just packedtheir bags and left._]

  [Sidenote: _Women of earth had finally attained their objective: a newworld all their own and--without men! But was it?_]

  After the Doctor gave him the hypo and left the ship, Bowren layin absolute darkness wondering when the change would start. Therewould be pain, the Doctor had said. "Then you won't be aware ofanything--anything at all."

  That was a devil of a thing, Bowren thought, not to be aware of thegreatest adventure any man ever had. He, Eddie Bowren, the first toescape the Earth into space, the first man to Mars!

  He was on his back in a small square steel cubicle, a secretlyconstructed room in the wall of the cargo bin of the big spaceshipcradled at the New Chicago Port. He was not without fear. But before theship blasted he wouldn't care--he would be changed by then. He wouldstart turning any minute now, becoming something else; he didn't knowexactly what, but that wouldn't matter. After it was over, he wouldn'tremember because the higher brain centers, the cortex, the analyticalmind, would be completely cut off, short-circuited, during thealteration.

  The cubicle was close, hot, sound-proofed, like a tomb. "You willprobably make loud unpleasant noises," the Doctor had said, "but no onewill hear you. Don't worry about anything until you get to Mars."

  That was right, Bowren thought. My only problem is to observe, compute,and get back into this dungeon without being observed, and back toEarth.

  The idea was to keep it from the women. The women wouldn't go for thisat all. They would object. The women would be able to bring into effectseveral laws dealing with spaceflight, among them the one againststowaways, and especially that particular one about aberrated malessneaking into space and committing suicide.

  A lot of men had tried it, in the beginning. Some of them had managedit, but they had all died. For a long time, the men's egos hadn't beenable to admit that the male organism was incapable of standing therigors of acceleration. Women had had laws passed, and if the womencaught him doing this, the punishment would be extreme for him,personally, and a lot more extreme for Earth civilization in general. Ifyou could call it a civilization. You could call it anything, Bowrengroaned--but it didn't make sense. A world without women. A birthratereduced to zero.

  A trickle of sweat slid past Bowren's eyes, loosening a nervous flushalong his back that prickled painfully. His throat was tense and hisheart pounded loud in the hot dark.

  A sharp pain ran up his body and exploded in his head. He tried toswallow, but something gagged in his throat. He was afraid of retching.He lay with his mouth open, spittle dribbling over his lips. The painreturned, hammered at his entrails. He fought the pain numbly, like aman grappling in the dark.

  The wave subsided and he lay there gasping, his fists clenched.

  "The pain will come in increasingly powerful waves," the Doctor hadsaid. "At a certain point, it will be so great, the analytical mind willcompletely short-circuit. It will stay that way enroute to Mars, andmeanwhile your body will rapidly change into that of a beast. Don'tworry about it. A catalytic agent will return you to normal before youreach the planet. If you live, you'll be human again."

  * * * * *

  A male human couldn't stand the acceleration. But a woman could. Animalscould. They had experimented on human males and animals in the giantcentrifuges, and learned what to do. Animals could stand 25 "G"consistently, or centrifugal forces as high as 120 revolutions a minute.About 10 "G" was the limit of female endurance. Less for men.

  It had never been thoroughly determined why women had been able to standhigher acceleration. But human females had the same physical advantagesover men as female rats, rabbits, and cats over males of the samespecies. A woman's cellular structure was different; her center ofgravity was different, the brain waves given off during accelerationwere different. It was suspected that the autonomic nervous system inwomen could function more freely to protect the body during emergencysituations. The only certainty about it was that no man had ever beenable to get into space and live.

  But animals could so they had worked on it and finally they decided tochange a man into an animal, at least temporarily. Geneticists andbiochemists and other specialists had been able to do a lot withhormones and hard radiation treatment. Especially with hormones. Youcould shoot a man full of some fluid or another, and do almost anythingto his organism. You could induce atavism, regression to some lower formof animal life--a highly speeded up regression. When you did that,naturally the analytical mind, the higher thought centers of a morerecent evolutionary development, blanked out and the primal mind tookover. The body changed too, considerably.

  Bowren was changing. Then the pain came and he couldn't think. He felthis mind cringing--giving way before the onslaught of the pain. Dimly hecould feel the agony in his limbs, the throbbing of his heart, thefading power of reason.

  He retched, languished through flaccid minutes. There were recurringspasms of shivering as he rolled his thickened tongue in the arid cavityof his mouth. And then, somewhere, a spark exploded, and drowned him ina pool of streaming flame.

  * * * * *

  Consciousness returned slowly--much as it had gone--in waves of pain. Ittook a long time. Elements of reason and unreason fusing throughdistorted nightmares until he was lying there able to remember, able towonder, able to think.

  Inside the tiny compartment were supplies. A hypo, glucose, a durolenesuit neatly folded which he put on. He gave himself a needle, swallowedthe tablets, and waited until energy and a sense of well-being gave himsome degree of confidence.

  It was very still. The ship would be cradled on Mars now. He lay there,relaxing, preparing for the real challenge. He thought of how well theEarth Investigation Committee had planned the whole thing.

  The last desperate attempt of man to get into space--to Mars--a woman'sworld. At least it was supposed to be. Whatever it was, it wasn't aman's world.

  The women didn't want Earth anymore. They had something better. Butwhat? There were other questions, and Bowren's job was to find theanswers, remain unobserved and get back aboard this ship. He would thenhypo himself again, and when the ship blasted off to Earth, he would gothrough the same transition all over again.

  He put on the soft-soled shoes as well as the durolene suit and crawledthrough the small panel into the big cargo bin. It was empty. Only a dimyellow light shone on the big cargo vices along the curved walls.

  He climbed the ladders slowly, cautiously, through a gnawing silence ofsuspense, over the mesh grid flooring along the tubular corridors. Hewondered what he would find.

  Could the women have been influenced by some alien life form on Mars?

  That could explain the fact that women had divorced themselvescompletely from all men, from the Earth. Something had to explain it.

  There was one other possibility. That the women had found human life onMars. That was a very remote possibility based on the idea that perhapsthe Solar system had been settled by human beings from outer space, andhad landed on two worlds at least.

  Bowren remembered how his wife, Lora, had told him he was an idiot and abore, and had walked out on him five years before; taken her threemonths course in astrogation, and left Earth. He hadn't heard of h
er orfrom her since. It was the same with every other man, married or not.The male ego had taken a beating for so long that the results had beenpsychologically devastating.

  The ship seemed to be empty of any human being but Bowren. He reachedthe outer lock door. It was ajar. Thin cold air came through and sent achill down his arms, tingling in his fingers. He looked out. It wasnight on Mars, a strange red-tinted night, the double moons throwingstreaming color over the land.

  Across the field, he saw the glowing Luciferin-like light of a smallcity. Soaring spherical lines. Nothing masculine about its architecture.Bowren shivered.

  He climbed down the ladder, the air biting into his lungs. The silencedown there on the ground under the ship was intense.

  He stood there a minute. The first man on Mars. Man's oldest dreamrealized.

  But the great thrill he had anticipated was dulled somewhat by fear. Afear of what the women had become, and of what might have
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